Total Reviews: 10
The Siesta, by Vincent van Gogh, 1889–90
When Alice first arrives in the foyer of Wonderland, she drinks from a small bottle in order to become small enough to enter through the locked door. That potion "had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast."
This is the olfactory effect one gets from Jeux de Peau, a jumble of gourmand notes that smell deliciously decadent - the maple syrup intensity of the fenugreek immortelle, the yeasty opulence of buttered bread, the suggestion of steaming coffee, the sweetness of apricot jam. One gains pounds within the first few minutes.
Once it all settles down, one is happy for the experience. It is doubtful however if one wishes to smell like breakfast in a patisserie for hours on end. It's a very clever and fun creation, but like most gourmand fragrances, its function as a wearable scent is almost an after-thought.
Full marks for creativity though!
Jeux de Peau smells – at first – like the air in a food product preparation lab, where the air swirls with all kinds of flavor molecules added to enhance our perception of what we’re actually eating.
I don’t think Jeux de Peau is foody per se (because it is not something that tempts me to eat it), but I do think it relies heavily on food aromachemical notes to produce it overall effect. I smell cylotene, a molecule that tastes of slightly burned maple syrup, bread, and coffee beans and is often added to real maple syrup to enhance the flavor/smell, and pyrazines, synthesized molecules responsible for the very intense smell of coffee, chocolate, woods, and bread brought to burning point under intense heat.
Like other pyrazine-rich perfumes, such as Aomassai, Un Bois Vanille, and Eau Noire, the effect in Jeux de Peau is intensely aromatic to the point where it can smell somewhat overcooked, or burned to a crisp, and like those other perfumes, a licorice or anise note has been added to underscore the deep “black” nuances.
The butyric undertone to the sandalwood is taken to the limits here, so it smells both richly oily and more than a little rancid, like a butter dish left out to fester under a hot lamp. When the toasted bread notes meet the buttery oilslick, the effect is unhealthy in that doughy, yeasty way that always reminds me of when a businessman slips off his loafers on a plane – that steamy odor of slightly-cooked feet pervading a closed-in space, always the same regardless of how spotless his socks, shoes, or feet actually are. The opening of Jeux de Peau forces that same unwanted intimacy on me, and I fight through it, gnashing my teeth until the intensity dissipates somewhat.
In the heart, the overly rich, stale butter notes are cut with a dash of salt, which I think is coming from a very herbal licorice or anise note, and the grassy, spicy tones of immortelle. The savory notes are perfectly balanced here by a delicious and delicate apricot jam accord (osmanthus flower), as well as the gentler milk tones coming out from the sandalwood. The sandalwood in this is just incredible – sweet and salty, richly, brownly aromatic, like an ancient elephant figurine carved from Mysore sandalwood held up to a fire to bring out the aroma hidden deep within its fibers.
Burned toast and butter, you say?
No, Jeux de Peau smells more complex than toast and butter. It also smells a lot less natural. The combined effect is a blur of intense flavor impressions that attract and repel at the same rate. I think it is high art. I am just not convinced that I want to wear it.
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Not a bad scent. Just a boring gourmand. Been there, done that. Bread and a few light spices.
Serge Lutens has done gourmand before; most obviously in the guise of Five O-Clock au Gingembre, Louve, and Rahät Loukoum. Jeux de Peau extends the line further in that direction. Yet where those earlier scents were either spicy or syrupy-sweet in their approximations of food, Jeux de Peau approaches comestibles from a more savory angle. It’s still dessert, mind you, but it’s more almond brioche than fruitcake or baklava.
A warm, yeasty, fresh baked goods accord greets the nose almost immediately, soon followed by sweetening touches of heliotrope and immortelle. Dry sandalwood balances the sweetness with a vaguely nutty influence, while a dab of the apricot familiar from Lutens’s earlier Daim Blond adds a welcome piquancy to the central arrangement. Jeux de Peau stands out as one of the few scents I know (along with Jubilation XXV and Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This,) that successfully incorporate immortelle without drowning themselves in its dense, viscous tide.
While Jeux de Peau is extremely soft in olfactory texture, it projects well from the skin and plays out in a linear manner for several hours’ wear. The dusty cedar and mild, powdery amber drydown smells disappointingly hollow once it arrives, but at least it’s not oppressively sweet or heavy. Despite the faintly risqué name (which translates as “skin games”), wearing Jeux de Peau is a pleasant and comforting experience. Yet I feel the scent betrays its name in that, for all its cuddly texture and comforting associations, it wears awkwardly on my skin. The impression is hard to convey, but after every wearing I’m left thinking I’d like Jeux de Peau better in a room spray or a candle than on me.
Very discrete games
The opening's spices take on a wormed-up bread note with a dirty fruity character, which later sees some wood added. An original take, but extremely faint ofter the first thirty minutes, with very little silage and projection on my skin. Gone after about two hours. The points are for the originality of this skin game.
Jeux de Peau would have benefited from greater weight placed on its darker notes of immortelle and toasted cereals. More maple syrup and less cheap caramel, please! Before the inevitable sugar crash, the scent does a nice impression of a plump croissant smothered in apricot jam.
It's not as if Lutens hasn't fallen into this sticky trap before, yet he still sometimes misjudges the balance between what's appetizing and what's merely edible.
Souk popcorn. Mellow and foody, with a topping of butter if one is being charitable, dry sweat if one is not – a certain saltiness rising above the glutenfest. A little while in, the milky sweetness began to rise but never got uncomfortable and then a few hours later it subsided again and I was left with a toned down version of the opening. If this were available in small bottles, I'd get it like a shot – it certainly intrigues even if it does not wow.
Buttered sweet popcorn - reminds me of kettle corn.
Bois Farine is to peanut butter sandwich as Jeux de Peau is to buttered toast and maple syrup.
This is a doughy immortelle with a sweet woody-amber drydown and a brief floral-licorice opening. Very cloying and mildly interesting at first, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly.